This weekend’s Doors Open event is Ottawa’s annual opportunity to explore a side of the city that is rarely available to the public. Doors Open Ottawa 2019 runs for two days and the list of buildings this year is as intriguing as ever.
This Saturday and Sunday, June 1 and 2, residents and visitors will have free access to more than 130 buildings around the capital region. Growing in popularity every year, Doors Open Ottawa is now the second-largest Doors Open event in Canada and one of the largest in the world. Organizers are expecting upwards of 100,000 visitors to explore at least one of the city’s most interesting spaces.
There will be a free and accessible OC Transpo shuttle bus running this weekend. Nearly 50 participating buildings can be accessed from stops on the shuttle loop.
Some highlights of this year:
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This weekend’s #DoorsOpenOttawa event is an annual opportunity to explore a side of the city that is rarely available to the public. With more than 130 buildings participating, we published a roundup of must-see spots (link in bio) like @allsaintsottawa . What used to be an Anglican Church is now an evolving event space and community hub in #SandyHill. The Church was the site of the only royal wedding in Canada’s history, and was attended by Robert Borden among other important figures. . The beautiful building was built in 1899, and will soon be the centrepiece of a modern development of condos and retail space. The downstairs stone "chapel" is especially gorgeous, and makes for awesome photos. @workingtitlecafe is in the basement, so leave time for a coffee and a snack before you move on to the next site. . 📸 @aliandbatoulphotography . Will you be attending the weekend-long event? Tag #apt613 for us to find and feature you!
315 Chapel Street: What used to be an Anglican Church is now an evolving event space and community hub in Sandy Hill. The Church was the site of the only royal wedding in Canada’s history, and was attended by Robert Borden among other important figures. The beautiful building was built in 1899, and will soon be the centrepiece of a modern development of condos and retail space. The downstairs stone “chapel” is especially gorgeous, and makes for awesome photos. Working Title Cafe is in the basement, so leave time for a coffee and a snack before you move on to the next site.
♿ 921 St. Laurent Boulevard: The CC Art Bank is a treasure trove! Hundreds of Canadian paintings and sculptures stashed in dozens of pull-out vertical shelves, on tables, on the floor, and on every possible wall in a cavernous warehouse. It’s as if you’ve stumbled into Ali Baba’s cave!
Last year, I found a famous Michael Snow painting, some Kent Monkman photos, and a wonderful bust of Vincent van Gogh by my favourite Canadian sculptor, Joe Fafard. And I swooned over the Inuit carvings. There were lots of enthusiastic staff available to answer questions, like “what’s the most badly damaged painting you’ve repaired?”. There was even an arts/crafts table for kids and creative adults.
Doors Open is the public’s only chance to see this cornucopia of Canadian art. You can easily spend the entire day there.
1 Canal Lane: The Bytown Museum is located in the oldest stone building in Ottawa! Built in 1827 the Commissariat Building was built as part of the Rideau Canal building project. Some people say that it’s haunted by a friendly former quartermaster. I never personally experienced anything creepy, but who knows! This building is in a great location, and while it is open to the public all year round, there is special free programming specifically for Doors Open. The tours will be given by summer students, so they will be informative and fun! The building is unfortunately not entirely accessible, but there are accommodations in place for all visitors.
♿ 3929 Carp Road: There are a lot of great museums in Ottawa but the Diefenbunker is my favourite. It’s a completely immersive historical experience as you go underground and imagine what life would be like after a nuclear explosion.
During Doors Open Ottawa you can take a 30 minute highlight tour on either weekend day but you’ll need to pre-register.
A note about accessibility: the museum’s website says the accessible washroom is currently closed for renovations.
140 Sussex Drive: Earnscliffe is a beautiful private home and National Historic Site that is only open to the public during Doors Open, so it is a must-see! It served as a home for John A. MacDonald, and is now the home of the British High Commissioner. This house has been kept in beautiful condition, and has excellent views of the Ottawa River. You may also get to meet the High Commissioner, which was a pleasant surprise in the past! There will be a security check to enter the grounds, and the home is only open on Saturday.
♿ 330 Sussex Drive: The building was initially built as the Dominion Archives of Canada in 1905. It also served as the Canadian War Museum until 2005. Now, the building is home to the Aga Khan’s Global Centre for Pluralism and has seen a dramatic and stunning renovation to its interior. The space is fully state of the art, while maintaining its heritage values and importance. You can find out exactly what a “centre for pluralism” is for! This building is not regularly open to the public, but is fully accessible. There is no parking on site.
29 Lisgar Street: An Ottawa landmark by the Rideau Canal, Lisgar Collegiate Institute was the first high school in the city and celebrated its 175th anniversary last year. Parts of the building, including the present-day library, date to 1874, and the 1908 auditorium is a striking and unexpected hidden feature. Be sure to take note as well of the impressive memorial outside the library to the many former students who died in the First World War. Can’t make it on Saturday? Check out this brand new historical tour of the building with Lisgar grad and President of Heritage Ottawa David Jeanes–produced by 613TV’s own Hingman Leung!
♿ 1 Elgin Street: On June 2nd, 1969, the National Arts Centre first opened its doors. A half century later, in partnership with Doors Open Ottawa, the NAC gives us the opportunity to see the space from the eyes of a performer, with a self-led backstage tour. Set foot on Southam Hall stage, tour Asper Theatre and the scenic shop, and step inside the dressing rooms.
There is a whole host of other programming happening throughout the day. In order to give you the full performer experience, the NAC will be offering free dance, choir, and theatre workshops. There will also be DJs and pop-up performances, a costume exhibition, and arts & crafts.
The perfect nightcap to a full day exploring Doors Open Ottawa, the NAC Orchestra will be playing a SOLD OUT concert at 8pm.
Check ottawa.ca for visiting hours and to see the full list of buildings participating in Doors Open Ottawa.